Best Things to do in Costa Rica in 2023
Read on for our list of best things to do in Costa Rica in 2023 - it's top attractions and points of interest. With a stunning choice of national parks, abundant animal and plant life, Costa Rica is a nature lovers dream. Explore and see exotic birds, massive sea turtles and endangered species. Hike, walk, horse ride, sail on a boat or zipline across the tree tops. The landscapes offers tropical rain forests, marshes, swamps and endless white sandy beaches. Active volcanos will take your breath away and you can experience a natural hot mud bath while live ash geysers burst around you. Discover hidden caves, secluded world-class surfing beaches, hanging bridges and mesmerizing sparkling blue lakes and waterfalls. This is paradise waiting for you! Scrll down to see the Map of Costa Rica's Attractions
- Costa Rica
- San Jose
- Manuel Antonio
- Guanacaste Hotels
- San Jose Hotels
- Jaco Hotels
- Manuel Antonio Hotels
- Monteverde Hotels
- Tamarindo Hotels
Arenal Volcano National Park
The most exciting thing to do in Costa Rica is start off your explorations with a visit to a live volcano. Inside the famous National Park, you will find the Arenal Volcano, one of top ten most active volcanoes on the planet. Join a tour and explore this amazing sight and the surrounding landscapes. As you hike towards the volcano you will see the cone topped with flows of burning hot red lava and massive pillars of ash spewing up into the air. The crater is 140 meters wide and last erupted in 1998. The previous eruption in 1968 buried three small villages and killed almost 100 people. Your knowledgeable guide will update you on the flora and fauna of the region as well as the history of the Arenal Volcano. Combine your tour to the volcano with a dip in a hot mineral spring or a visit to the Arenal Observatory. Also in the park are the lovely La Fortuna Waterfalls and the Lake where you can enjoy a boat, kayak trip or a Safari float. You can also visit the volcano at night for a unique and dramatic sight-seeing adventure.
Guided tours to Arenal Volcano National Park are available from La Fortuna, Liberia, San Jose.
Poas Volcano National Park
Now that you are hooked on volcanos, the next thing to do in Costa Rica is take a tour to the Poas Volcano National Park. This world famous volcano offers a setting of astounding natural beauty. The crater is barren, gray and rocky - almost lunar-like in appearance. In the middle is a stunning aquamarine lagoon, Laguna Caliente, shimmering in the sunlight. This lagoon is filled with acidic water and supports little or no life. A second lake, on the southern side, known as Lake Botos, is filled with cold water and is surrounded by lush green forest vegetation. The crater measures almost one mile across and is the largest active crater in the world. Take a guided tour and learn all about this amazing region from your knowledgeable guide. You will get up close to the smoking crater and walk along the special hiking trails that lead to lookout points with breathtaking views. Nature lovers can look out for quetzal, toucans and hummingbirds. A large eruption took place in April 2017, throwing up burning rocks, gas steam and massive pillars of ash clouds.
Guided tours to Poas Volcano National Park are available from San Jose, Puntarenas, La Fortuna.
Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve
Standing on the Continental Divide with half of your body on the Caribbean side and the other half on the Pacific side is a fun thing to do in Costa Rica. Head to the beautiful Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve and you can tick this off your bucket list! The park offers 4 different ecological zones and vast areas of pristine, untouched forest. For hikers, this is pure bliss with an eight mile network of trails that wind their way through the changing landscapes. Monteverde is home to over 3,000 plant species of which more than 700 are trees. The Park is filled with an abundance of animal and bird life from sloths, to bats, tapirs, exotic toucans and ant eaters. Join a tour and explore with a local guide who is fully familiar with the region. Visit the Butterfly Garden and learn all about the 20 species of butterflies that inhabit the forests. Then walk through the natural Medicinal Plant Garden and learn how plants are used to provide natural remedies. For those who enjoy extreme sports, you can zipline through the forests, becoming one with the tree creatures. There are 15 cables and 18 platforms and you will soon feel like Tarzan. Also high above the forests are a series of Tree Top Walkways, or hanging bridges, that offer breathtaking views and are suitable for visitors of all ages.
Guided tours to >Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve are available from Guanacaste, Tamarindo, San Jose.
Manuel Antonio National Park
To experience the total natural beauty of this astounding country, a visit to Manuel Antonio National Park is the next thing to do in Costa Rica. It has something for every nature lover from pristine beaches to lush jungles, mountain landscapes and coral reefs. The Park holds the accolade of being named ÔOne of the world's most beautiful parks' by Forbes Magazine. Join a tour and explore with a knowledgeable guide and expert naturalist who will teach you all about the eco-systems, animal and bird life of the Park. Stroll along the hiking trails and look out for Capuchin monkeys, agouti, white tailed deer, reptiles, sloths and exotic colorful birds like toucans and motmots. Water lovers can head to the four beaches for fun in the sun and water. Teloro and Playita and known for their endless white sands and crystal-clear blue waters. Manuel Antonio and Espadilla Sur offer amazing tide pools which are fabulous for snorkling. Discover the wonderful underwater world of corals, sponges, magnificent sea creatures and plants while floating leisurely on the surface. Most tours include lunch and are family friendly. Spend a day in this magnificent setting and you are sure to want to return again and again.
Guided tours to Manuel Antonio National Park are available from Jaco, Quepos, San Jose.
Baldi Hot Springs
A soak in a natural therapeutic hot spring is a wonderful, relaxing thing to do in Costa Rica. Located at the base of the Arenal Volcano, you will find the fabulous Baldi Hot Springs. This world class venue offers not only a stunning view of the active volcano but also a choice of 25 different thermo-mineral hot pools that range from 93 to 152 degrees Fahrenheit. The setting is magnificent, with landscaped gardens, waterfalls and lush green vegetation, designed to relax and inspire you while you enjoy a therapeutic session. Follow your guide's instructions and get the best advice on how to adapt to each pool, allowing your body temperature to stabilize as each pool becomes warmer. The natural waters are believed to rid the body of viruses, germs and harmful toxins. Finish off your treatment with a relaxing massage. For those who enjoy an adrenalin rush, the Baldi Hot Springs venue also offers extreme water slides. Climb and plunge at a super fast speed, sliding and bumping into the warm pools below. A visit to the Springs can be combined on a tour that includes ziplining, a hike up the volcano and a trip to see the hanging Bridges. Choose one that best suits your group and time availability.
Guided tours to Baldi Hot Springs are available from San Jose, Arenal, Jaco, Liberia.
Tabacon Hot Springs
If relaxing the at Baldi Hot Springs made you feel like a new person, a visit to the Tabacon Hot Springs is a not-to-be-missed thing to do in Costa Rica. Also located close to the Arenal Volcano, this setting offers steaming hot springs that run down the mountain side, forming into pools offering health-enhancing warm mineral waters. The famous Tabacon Spa is beautifully landscaped with lush green vegetation, cascading waterfalls and picturesque winding paths that lead to hidden pools. Stroll over the wooden bridges and soak in the hot waters. The pools range in temperature from 77 to 102 degrees Fahrenheit. Your guide will advise on the correct procedure to follow to adjust your body temperature as you move from cooler waters to steaming hot. The pools are filled by rainwater that soaks up the magma, heats up and rise to the surface, carrying therapeutic minerals with it. The main pool is picture-perfect with views of the Volcano and a swim-up bar. Tours to the Tabacon Hot Springs can be combined with a hike up the Volcano, a trip to the Hanging Bridges and a romantic dinner. Choose one that best suits your desires.
Guided tours to Tabacon Hot Springs are available from La Fortuna, San Jose.
Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park
If you want to see the lush tropical rain forests from a bird's perspective, a visit to the astounding Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park is the next fabulous thing to do in Costa Rica. These tours are ideal for people who prefer not to zipline, but want to get the same experience from up high! The Park offers 16 different hanging bridges, covering a distance of 1.6 miles. Some bridges are suspended over the deep gorges, others stretch through the dense, lush green jungle treetops. Join a walking tour and follow your guide along these amazing walkways. The views are breathtaking and as you go along your guide will educate you on the wildlife and history of Costa Rica. With his keen eye, you can look out for exotic birds like toucans, see frogs, butterflies, bats, sloths, ant eaters and monkeys. Stop to see panoramic views of the Arenal Volcano and surrounding landscapes. The walk is not strenuous and can be navigated by reasonably fit people. Take along a sun hat and a bottle of water. Some tours combine a visit to the Hanging Bridges with a hike up to the Arenal crater, a visit to La Fortuna Waterfall, the Hot Springs and even a river rafting experience. Choose the trip best suited to your group.
Guided tours to Mistico Arenal Hanging Bridges Park are available from La Fortuna, as well as Jaco, Puntarenas, Guanacaste.
Braulio Carrillo National Park
Looking for a relaxing way to explore the lush rain forests? Taking a car or van trip through the Braulio Carrillo National Park is the ideal thing to do in Costa Rica. The park is divided by a busy highway that makes it unique - it allows you to stop and take pictures of the jungle scenes without leaving your seat. This is perfect for the elderly, families with small children or those who prefer not to walk. Take a slow drive and enjoy the beauty of this stunning landscape! If you want to explore further, you can hike along the many trails that lead to cascading waterfalls, open pastures and mountain look-out stations. Then, take a fun ride on a gondola on the Aerial Tram that winds its way through the dense canopy of the trees. Look out for forest creatures like bats, sloths and ant eaters as well as exotic birds like toucans. If you have a head for heights, walk along the hanging bridge and for extreme sport lovers - try your skills at ziplining. Then relax and visit the beautiful butterfly garden and the orchid garden. Join a tour and your knowledgeable guide will update you on this fascinating protected forest and ensure that you get the most out of your visit.
Guided tours to Braulio Carrillo National Park are available from San Jose.
Photo by Sergio Quesada
Monteverde Butterfly Gardens
With so much nature to explore, the options are unlimited and a visit to the Monteverde Butterfly Gardens is wonderful thing to do in Costa Rica. This venue is known locally as Mariposario and is one of the most popular tourist attractions. Set off and explore with the family. An experienced guide will take you through the Gardens, explaining all you need to know about the life cycle and habits of the butterflies on show. There are informative displays on 20 species of insects and 30 species of butterflies. The biodiversity center is temperature controlled to 82.4 degrees Fahrenheit, to preserve the natural habitat of the insects and allow them to thrive. Kids will be enthralled by the bug cameras which show a butterfly emerging from its chrysalis. They can also watch other live insects and observe an active leaf-eating ant colony. The 3-acre garden also houses other wildlife, including capuchin monkeys, motmots, colorful exotic toucans, agoutis and more. For the brave, you can get up close and personal with a few tarantulas! Make sure you buy a souvenir at the gift shop to take home.
Guided tours to Monteverde Butterfly Gardens are available from Gunacaste, San Jose.
La Paz Waterfall Gardens
Nature lovers will be enchanted at La Paz Waterfall Gardens, it is one of the most famous things to do in Costa Rica. This privately owned Ecological attraction offers some of the most stunning walks and hikes in the region. Set off with the family for a day outing and be awed by the natural beauty of Costa Rica. In the park you will find 2 miles of trails to navigate. The pace is slow and ideal for all levels of fitness. You can choose to do a self-guide tour or join a guided tour. In the Park you will find five stunning cascading waterfalls and a cloud forest. Nature lovers can meander through the Butterfly Observatory, the Hummingbird Garden and spend time in the bird watching areas. Kids will be enthralled at the Serpentarium and the Frog Exhibit. Your guide will tell you all about the huge variety of species that live here. There are over 100 species, which are documented and presented with fascinating exhibits in the environmental education program. Join a tour that offers a stop at a coffee plantation and also offers a fabulous lunch at the end of your explorations.
Guided tours to La Paz Waterfall Gardens are available from San Jose.
Escaping to an island paradise is the next amazing thing to do in Costa Rica. Join a tour that sails out on a luxury catamaran or yacht for a sun-filled day on Tortuga Island. It is located in the Gulf of Nicoya, off the tip of the Nicoya Peninsula. This idyllic archipelago of islands is home to myriad of wildlife and birds, exotic flowers and trees. Sail with your knowledgeable crew, who will update you on the region and its history. Learn all about the biodiversity of what you will discover on Isla Tortuga, Turtle Island. The cruise takes about one and half hours and you will enjoy a breakfast or lunch. When you arrive, set off to explore the pristine white sands of the beaches. Relax under an umbrella or enjoy a dip in the warm, crystal-clear blue waters. Snorkelers can discover a myriad of colorful sea creatures that live under the water. If you have scuba equipment, dive near the coral reef to find angelfish, porcupine fish, spinner dolphins, octopus, eagle rays and sea turtles that give the Island its name. If you are feeling energetic, join a game of beach volleyball or take a hike along the beautiful nature trails before heading back to your hotel.
Guided tours to Tortuga Island are available from Jaco, San Jose.
Rafting down a river that once transported weapons, soldiers and food during a war is a great thing to do in Costa Rica. The Sarapiqui River is a national monument and is known for its role in the 1856 war against the filibusters. If you are an experienced river rafter, it offers adrenaline pumping raging rapids of Class III and IV. Surge down the river in a raft with a guide and enjoy getting wet and wild. Photos can be obtained afterwards to show off when you get home. For beginners, there are smaller rapids and guides will give you a safety and paddling lesson before you set off. If you prefer something more laid back, enjoy sailing along on a river safari float, an adventure that is ideal for families with children. Climb aboard, relax and look out for howler monkeys, white-faced, colorful iguanas, caimans, sloths, and birds like blue heron and toucans as you sail along at a leisurely pace. For those who prefer to stay on land, you can hike along the stunning nature trails to explore the forests. And, for something special, why not get up high into the trees on the Sarapiqui canopy? Ziplining is a fun-filled way to see the landscapes from above. After a quick lesson and safety briefing, you will soon be launching off the platforms and sailing along the ziplines high above the tree tops for a unique experience.
Guided tours to Sarapiqui River are available from La Fortuna, La Virgen, Puerto Viejo de Sarapiqui.
Coffee lovers will be delighted to know that tasting authentic coffee from a world famous estate is the next exciting thing to do in Costa Rica. Join a tour that combines art, culture and history and of course, sampling some iconic coffee! A visit to the Doka Estate allows visitors to explore the processes of growing, harvesting, roasting and distribution of Costa Rican coffee to countries around the globe. Tour the grounds and see the workers at their jobs. Watch how they harvest and hand pick the beans according to age-old traditions. Then enjoy a sample of the eight different roasts that the Estate is known for. A buffet lunch will accompany your coffee tasting. The small tours are led by an expert guide who will give you loads of valuable and fascinating information. After lunch, head to the gift shop to buy a souvenir to take home. Also on the Doka Estate is the Bonsai Tree and Orchid Garden, a lovely venue to explore and rejuvenate your mind. Children will be enthralled at Butterfly Farm, filed with exotic colorful species and educational displays. This is a great day outing for the whole family.
Guided tours to Doka Estate are available from San Jose.
Photo by Andy Rusch.
When making a list of things to do in Costa Rica, don't forget a visit to Lake Arenal. This stunning lake covers 53 square miles, making it the largest in Costa Rica. At certain points, it reaches depths of 200 feet. Offering a picture-postcard scene of shimmering blue water, lush tropical landscapes and a smoking volcano in the background, this is a sight not to be missed. The Lake started as a small crater lagoon and was then expanded to serve as a massive hydroelectric dam. The lake offers a magnificent recreational space for locals and tourists. The steady winds make it perfect to try your skills at windsurfing, sailing and body boarding. If you want to try the latest sport, have a lesson in SUP, stand up paddle boarding Ð it is fun for the whole family. Fisherman will be delighted to know that the lake is filled with an abundance of rainbow bass and machaca fish. Other options for exploring the water are a trip on a relaxed pontoon boat, or a slow paddle in a kayak with a guide. You can also explore the surrounding rain forests on a hike, a bike ride or a horseback ride.
Guided tours to Lake Arenal are available from La Fortuna.
Photo by CzechBar on Flickr
Vida Aventura Nature Park
A chance to zipline, horse ride and soak in a natural spring all in one day, should not be missed and this is another exciting thing to do in Costa Rica. Take a tour of the beautiful Vida Aventura Nature Park and enjoy all these activities under the watchful eye of an experienced guide. The Park is located in the middle of the Guanacaste area and offers a great mix of nature and adventure. Start off by learning how to zipline. Your guide will give you a brief safety lesson and soon you will be hopping from platform to platform and zooming along the suspended cables, high above the forest tree tops. Become one with exotic toucans, hanging monkeys and other creatures that live here. A relaxed horseback ride follows through the forest and across the grass plains. Follow your guide and learn all about the diversity of the landscapes and the fauna and flora. The views of the two active volcanos, Rincon de la Vieja and Miravalles, will certainly demand a photo stop. When you return, soak in a natural hot mineral pool to soothe tired muscles. The volcanic mud relaxes and has therapeutic properties. Enjoy a traditional meal before your drive back to your hotel.
Guided tours to Vida Aventura Nature Park are available from Guanacaste.
Rafting down a river known as one of the most beautiful in the world is our next recommended thing to do in Costa Rica. The Pacuare River offers 18 miles of rafting with over 50 rapids of different strengths. Set in a natural gorge, the rafting run winds it way through lush green, dense jungles forests, past cascading waterfalls and high rocky cliffs. Join a tour and have a rafting lesson, get geared up and start practising on the smaller class II rapids. Once your team become more confident you can move on to the faster rapids, all under the watchful eye of your professional guide. The river has several different classes of rapids, with varying levels of adventure based on skill levels and experience. Experience the Double Drop, the Pin Ball and the Terciopelo Snake. Be awed as you pass the breathtaking Huacas Waterfall, dropping 150 feet into the river. When you reach the calmer five mile stretch along the Valle del Pacuare, relax and look out for exotic creatures like monkeys, ocelots, sloths and beautiful tropical birds like toucans. Your trip ends in Siquirres, where you can catch your breathe, have a drink and chat about the adventure!
Guided tours to Pacuare River are available from San Jose.
Rincon de la Vieja Volcano National Park
Nature lovers who enjoy exploring diverse ecological regions will find that a visit to the Rincon de La Vieja National Park is a fascinating thing to do in Costa Rica. The Park is a World Heritage site and is home to an abundance of flora and fauna. It surrounds two volcanos, Rincon which is active and Santa Maria which is dormant. Take a guided hiking tour with a knowledgeable guide and learn all about the eco-systems of the region. As you walk along look out for agoutis, white-nose coatis, spider monkey, howler monkey and exotic tropical birds like toucans. The region is also home to a stunning array of colorful butterflies and is world famous for its masses of purple orchids. In contrast to the flourishing wildlife are the deep and dark craters of the volcanos. Steamy sulfur water ponds, boiling mud and steaming fumaroles dot the landscape. These volcanos are over one million years old and last erupted in 1980's. See the rivers and cascading waterfalls that flow down the sides of the lava mountains and stop to take some photos or have dip in a natural pool. Some tours offer lunch at Liberia City where you can also buy hand crafted souvenirs to take home.
Guided tours to Rincon de la Vieja Volcano National Park are available from Тamarindo, Liberia, Playa Hermosa.
La Fortuna Waterfall
Just when you think you have run out of stunning natural sights to see, a visit to La Fortuna Waterfall is another magical thing to do in Costa Rica. The waterfall is one of the most easily accessible, making it ideal for families with children who don't want to miss out on the beauty of the region. The river plunges down the side of the Cerro Chato, a dormant Volcano, set in the dense green forest. It drops a breathtaking 200 feet down a sheer, gray cliff face into a natural pool below. The waterfall is shrouded in mists and surrounded by luscious and exotic vegetation. You can reach the falls by car, it is located about 3 miles from La Fortuna. Once there, you can take a hike or a horse ride through the surrounding areas. Then head to the falls itself, there is a long staircase of rocky stairs that take you all the way down. Take along walking shoes to be comfortable. Rest benches are provided along the way, so go as far as you want and at your own pace. The view is stunning all the way down and allows everyone of any fitness level to appreciate the beauty. When you get to the bottom, you can take a dip in the natural pool Ð the water is cold, so be warned.
Guided tours to La Fortuna Waterfall are available from La Fortuna.
Selvatura Adventure Park
The Selvatura Adventure Park offers a host of attractions and is the perfect thing to do in Costa Rica with a family. This combination of nature and adventure will delight everyone looking for a day of fun. The park is located 15 minutes from the town of Monteverde and can be visited on a number of different tours. Start off by exploring the cloud forests on a zipline and by walking along the hanging bridges. Your guide will give you a lesson and soon you will be flying like Tarzan from platform to platform above the trees through the mists. The hanging bridges offer a walkway of about 2 miles and vary in height from 150 feet up to 510 feet. If you prefer to stay on the ground, visit the fascinating Butterfly Garden, the world's largest live butterfly exhibition. Take a guided tour and learn all about the life cycle of these beautiful creatures. You will also see a colony of leafcutter ants in action, that is sure to delight the kids. Nature lovers will be enchanted to learn that the Selvatura Adventure Park is home to over 400 species of birds, 100 species of mammals and 2500 plant varieties of which 420 are exotic orchids. Spend a day and you will want to come back for more!
Guided tours to Selvatura Adventure Park are available from Monteverde, Tamarindo.
Tenorio Volcano National Park
Looking to get off the beaten-track and discover something to do in Costa Rica that is unique? A visit to Tenorio Volcano National Park will be the perfect day outing. This is one of the most spectacular parks but also the least visited, so you can be assured of far fewer tourists and a more personal experience. The Park is home to two volcanos, Miravalles and Tenorio after which it is named. They are set in a lush rain forest and cloud forest that offers fabulous opportunities for horseback riding and hiking trips. Flowing through the center of the park is the magnificent Rio Celeste, a river of luminous blue waters which are created by a chemical reaction between the natural copper sulfate, colloidal silica and sulfur found in the mineral-rich waters. River rafters can take a tour and show off their skills on the Class III and IV rapids. Beginners are welcome and you will have a lesson and safety briefing before setting off with an experienced guide. If you prefer to walk, take a tour that explores the waterfalls and updates you on the flora and fauna, follow your guide on a fascinating hike that ends with a dip in the amazing blue waters of the lagoon.
Guided tours to Tenorio Volcano National Park are available from Playa Hermosa, Tamarindo, La Fortuna, Liberia, Arenal.
Seeing a magical dazzling bright blue river is the next not-to-be-missed thing do in Costa Rica. The Rio Celeste is located inside the Tenorio Volcano National Park and offers a unique experience. It dazzles with an astounding blue color, formed by a reaction of the calcium carbonate and volcanic sulfur found in the mineral-rich waters. You can get to the river by hiking through the surrounding rain forests with a guide. The hike is fairly strenuous tour is best suited for those who are fit. Trek to the point where two clear rivers meet and form a fairy-tale sight as the water turns bright blue. Stop at the Rio Celeste Waterfall and snap some photos. Your guide will take you to a secluded spot where you can enjoy a dip in the natural pools. On the hike, lookout for exotic wildlife like sloths, hanging monkeys and beautiful colored toucans. Combine your tour with one with that serves a traditional lunch, a perfect end to a day in paradise.
Guided tours to Rio Celeste are available from La Fortuna,Arenal, Tamarindo.
Diamante Eco Adventure Park
There is no shortage of family themed adventures and a day outing to Diamante Eco Adventure Park is another exciting thing to do in Costa Rica. This amazing Park offers a host of adrenalin-pumping experiences for all. Start with the zipline, the country's longest dual ocean line. Meet your guide, have a safety briefing and a lesson, get geared up and then sail with a partner, friend or family member for over a mile through the jungle. This unique experience offers fabulous ocean views and the chance to see exotic wildlife in the treetops. Enjoy the Tarzan Swing and the Quick Jump and then catch your breath relaxing in a hammock on an idyllic beach. Water sports lovers can try kayaking and stand-up paddle boarding. If you want to explore the magnificent scenes under the water, get your snorkeling gear and give it a go. Kids will get a thrill walking over the hanging bridge with myriads of crocodiles teaming underneath it. The animal sanctuary offers a close up look at sloths, monkeys, pumas, jaguars and exotic birds like toucans and parrots. You can also choose to ride an ATV, bumping over the rugged trails through the Park after your knowledgeable local guide. Fun for all!
Guided tours to Diamante Eco Adventure Park are available from Liberia.
Cano Negro Wildlife Refuge
If you are serious about wildlife and natural eco-systems, a visit to the Cano Negro Wildlife Refuge is a recommended thing to do in Costa Rica. The Refuge is located on the Cano Negro Lake and is considered to be one of the most wetlands in the world. Migratory birds visit here and nest for part of the year and it is home a vast number of species of animal, plant and birdlife. Included in the mix are endangered species like jaguars, tapirs and some varieties of monkeys. The wetlands are fed by the Rio Frio, the largest flowing river in the Arenal region. If you visit in the dry season, the water recedes and you can look out for glossy ibises, green-backed herons, black-bellied whistling ducks, blue-winged teals, wood storks and more. Bird watchers will be able to tick off their lists, a sighting of the endangered Jabirus, the largest bird found in Central America. Fishing is permitted at certain times of the year. Travel with a knowledgeable guide who will ensure that you learn all about this fascinating landscape.
Guided tours to Cano Negro Wildlife Refuge are available from La Fortuna.
Palo Verde National Park
For those who take environmental issues seriously, the Palo Verde National Park is home to one of the most endangered ecosystems in the tropics. Tropical dry forests once covered a large portion of Central America but today have been reduced to a fraction of their size due to human destruction. The Palo Verde National Park still preserves some of these landscapes. It is situated on the banks of the Rio Tempisque and has fifteen 15 different eco-systems. With mangrove swamps, marshes, evergreen forests, wetlands and more, it is home to a huge variety of flora and fauna. Take a trip with a professional guide and learn all about this unique region. You can ride, walk hike or enjoy a river cruise. In the Park there are over 60 bird species that comes here as a migratory stop. There are more than 75 mammal species and 250 species of bees alone. Bird watchers can lookout for green-backed herons, egrets and spoonbills. You may also spot a scarlet macaw! A visit to this amazing Park is a not-to-be-missed thing to do in Costa Rica.
Guided tours to Palo Verde National Park are available from Playa Flamingo, Playa Hermosa, Liberia, Tamarindo.
Carara National Park
When planning your day trips, adding a tour to the beautiful Carara National Park is the thing to do in Costa Rica. This Park has a unique location at the meeting of the wet rainforest and the dry tropical forest. It is home to a huge variety of wildlife that inhabit the small area of 5240 hectare. Bird watchers will be thrilled to know that the Park is home to one of the last populations of scarlet macaws on the planet. Here, they are protected and can be seen preening in groups. Also on show, and sure to delight the younger generation is an enormous population of massive crocodiles which live on the northern border near to the Rio Tarcoles. You don't have to be super fit to explore the Carara National Park. There are two half mile trails, ideal for families and those less active, which take you through the wilderness and past breathtaking cascading waterfalls. If you prefer something longer, take the 2.7 mile trail that winds along the Rio Tarcoles and through the mangrove marshes. Guided tours with a professional guide will ensure that you see the best that nature has to offer in this amazing Park.
Guided tours to Carara National Park are available from Jaco, Puntarenas.
Tortuguero National Park
If you are looking for a unique experience, learning about wild sea turtles is the thing to do in Costa Rica. Join a tour to the Tortuguero National Park, a region of remote, untouched beaches where turtles comes to nest and lay their eggs. Head to the Tortuguero village with your guide. You will be fascinated to learn that there are no roads here and the only access to the park is via boat on the waterways. Set sail and enjoy the spectacular sights of waterfalls, lagoons and creeks. Your guide will point out sloths, capuchin monkeys, otter and perhaps even the endangered West Indian manatee. Then stop at the secluded black-sand beaches which are protected areas for the turtles. Here you will find clusters of Green and Hawksbill turtles who lay their eggs in the sand during July to September. Some of these massive turtles weigh up to 700 pounds! If you come later in the year, you will see hundreds of baby turtles making their way down the beach and into the ocean. Certain tours remain until nightfall when you head back to the beach to see the Leatherback and Loggerhead turtles that move under the cover of darkness. Follow your guide with a flashlight to spot turtle tracks on the pristine sands, a truly memorable experience for the whole family.
Guided tours to Tortuguero National Park are available from San Jose, Limon.
For those who get a thrill out of exploring underground caves, here is another fabulous thing to do in Costa Rica. The Venado Caves are thought to be millions of years old. They were carved by movement of tectonic plates and water currents that hollowed out the limestone, creating an endless, deep network of tunnels that are for the brave to explore. Here you will be enthralled by mesmerising sights of stalactites, stalagmites and unique rock formations with names like The Altar, Papaya, Lion's Head and Coral. There are vast underground caverns, subterranean rivers and fossil remnants. A huge bat colony may spook out some people and delight others! Also watch out for frogs, spiders, crabs, insects and other wildlife that live in the dark damp caves. The caves cover over 8000 feet and can be explored on a tour with a guide. Get suitably dressed Ð water drips constantly from the ceilings and you are sure to get wet. You will be given a briefing and safety gear. Some of the walk requires you to crawl through small holes, narrow tunnels and climb walls. If you are up to it, this is a mystical and surreal experience for the adventurous.
Guided tours to Venado Caves are available from San Jose, La Fortuna.
Now that you are hooked on volcanos, a visit to the Miravalles Volcano is the next awe-inspiring thing to do in Costa Rica. It lies in the Guanacaste region and can be seen towering 6653 feet into the sky. Escape from the heat of the tropical beaches and enjoy some cooler, rarefied air up on the heights. Despite being classified as dormant, the volcano still generates enough heat from under the earth to create geysers, steam and natural heated pools. Enjoy a relaxing and therapeutic mud bath in a bubbling pool. Choose from pools with different temperatures and sink into hot gray, brown or yellow mud. Each has different levels of sulfur and depths, which your guide will explain. Cover yourself in mud, climb out and wait for it to cool, wash off and feel like a new person! Then take a hike, an ATV ride or a horseback ride to explore the rainforests on the slope of the volcano. For those who have a head for heights, you can zipline above the treetops for a bird's eye-view of the stunning scenery. When you are back on the ground, head to see the amazing Celeste Waterfall that thunders down into a stunning blue lagoon. This region offers some of the best bird watching and cannot be missed.
Guided tours to Miravalles Volcano are available from Tamarindo, Playa Hermosa.
Santa Rosa National Park
On your vacation, you will never run out of beautiful national Parks to visit and a tour to Santa Rosa National Park on the Santa Elena Peninsula is another fun-filled thing to do in Costa Rica. It is one of the original Parks, established in 1972 and is known for its stunning lush green forests and endless white beaches. Here, nature lovers can spot monkeys and iguanas on a hike, or head to the beach and see the amazing sight of huge Pacific Ridley turtles nesting and laying eggs. If you are a surfer, this Park offers the world's most famous secluded surfing area. Reached only by boat, you can take a guided tour to Witches Rock, a massive, ominous black rock towering above the ocean. Alone on an empty ocean, you can surf some of the most inaccessible world-class breaks on the planet. Apart from the attraction of the nature, the Park is known for the historic La Casona, a hacienda that commemorates the victory of Tico civilians who suppressed an invasion of foreign mercenaries in 1856. Learn all about nature, history and culture on a guided tour of this unique Park.
Guided tours to Santa Rosa National Park are available from Liberia.
Cahuita National Park
Learning about medicinal plants in the Cahuita National Park is another captivating thing to do in Costa Rica. Take a guided tour and your knowledgeable guide will teach you all about the plants and how they were used by the elders of the Cahuita tribe. The Park is also a conservation region for a host of species, walk along the trails and look out for pacas, Northern tamanduas, opposums, raccoons, porcupines and capuchin monkeys. In the marsh areas, you will find green iguanas, gigantic blue crabs and many species of birds like the green ibis, blue herons and gulls. The Park also encompasses pristine white sandy leaches where you can relax and enjoy the stunning scenery or take a dip in the crystal clear blue waters. Snorkeling offers a fabulous opportunity to discover the magnificent colorful creatures, corals and fish that live under the water. The Park has the largest coral reef in Costa Rica. Join a snorkeling tour and your local guide will take you to the best viewing areas. A camping area offers showers, toilets and changing rooms, making this ideal for families who want to enjoy a day in paradise.
Guided tours to Cahuita National Park are available from Limon province.
Orosi River Valley
With so much natural tropical beauty, your choices of things to do in Costa Rica are endless. Discover the stunning Orosi River Valley, filled with lush green rain forests, scenic mountains and endless coffee plantations. This natural setting attracts nature lovers, bird watchers and fishermen. It also makes a great day outing to experience the beauty of Costa Rica with a touch of history thrown in. See the Reventazon River and the Cachi Dam. The wobbly bridge may set your nerves tingling as you look down into this deep canyon. Historians will enjoy strolling through the iconic Iglesia de San Jose de Orosi Church. Learn how it was built in 1743 and is the oldest church in use in Costa Rica. Explore the small museum which houses Spanish Colonial artifacts and religious art. In front of the Church is a soccer field where you are likely to see locals enjoying the national pastime! Then set off to the see breathtaking Irazu Volcano. Take a hike for spectacular views of the crater and the surrounding lush farmlands. Continue to the Ruins of Ujarras, with crumbling walls set amongst tranquil gardens. Here you will find Se–oras selling local delicacies like Arepas, Shoreadas and Elotes. Sample some for a true feeling of Costa Rica!
Guided tours to Orosi River Valley are available from San Jose.
Rio Negro Hot Springs
After all your walking and hiking, relaxing sore and tired muscles is the next thing to do in Costa Rica. Set off to the magical Rio Negro Hot Springs for a treat that you will never forget. The Springs are a series of man-made stone pools that are filled by the mineral-rich waters of the Ricon de la Vieja Volcano, keeping them constantly full and fresh. Visitors reach the pools by a series of hanging bridges through the dense forests Ð a fabulous scenic trip! Once at the pools, choose from varying temperatures as your body adapts. Start off in the cooler pool and progress to the hotter ones. A guide will help you along the way. You can also choose to have a therapeutic mud-bath given by local experts. Heated volcanic clay is smeared all over your body, which draws out toxins and heals at the same time. After the clay has dried, wash it off with a cool shower or a dip in the cold river before warming up in the thermal pools. This treatment offers total relaxation and pure bliss Ð better than any city spa! Change rooms, bathrooms and lockers are available at the entrance to the pools.
Guided tours to Rio Negro Hot Springs are available from Tamarindo
Hacienda Pozo Azul
Before heading home, a visit to Hacienda Pozo Azul is the final thing to do in Costa Rica. This adventure destination offers a variety of eco-adventures under the watchful eye of professional guides. It is located 90 minutes from San Jose. Set off for a day of fun. Start with a river rafting trip down the rapids. There are tours for beginners from Class II up to experienced rafters up to Class III and IV. Then enjoy a canopy sail on a zipline, high above the forest tree tops, becoming one with the creatures who live up there. If you want the adrenalin-rush of the heights but do not enjoy ziplining, the high hanging bridges will offer enough breathtaking fun and spectacular views! For those who enjoy horseback riding, take a ride across the open plains and over the clear bubbling streams. Hiking and walking trails offer opportunities to spot the amazing wildlife that call this place home. If you have children, have a picnic in the garden next to the lake and then visit the Butterfly Farm and the Frog Pond. Active sports lovers can join a game of volleyball or football. A perfect day outing for all ages and types of adventure seekers.